November 28, 2010
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan visited several towns around the restive Mt. Bulusan volcano to survey firsthand the effects of Mt. Bulusan’s recent ash explosions.
Pangilinan, who is the senate chair of the committee on agriculture and food, went to Barangay Cogon in Irosin where he saw massive boulders that have been washed down from the slopes of the volcano clogging the Cadacan River. In some areas, lahar deposits about 10-feet high are blocking the river channel, hence Pangilinan observed the need to dredge these areas. Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee and Mayor Eduardo Ong of Irosin accompanied him.
Provincial disaster officials assessed the damage is still minimal to crops but fears rains and ensuing lahar flows can still pose a threat. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) provincial volcanologist, Ed Laguerta, reported there is over 400,000 cubic meters of lahar deposit around the slopes of Bulusan.
Mt. Bulusan started erupting on November 6, 2010. Phivolcs has since maintained the alert level at 1. Families living around the 4-km permanent danger zone have been asked to evacuate by local authorities, but some farmers refused to leave, or have been going back and forth to tend to their farm lots.
Pangilinan reiterated calls for the villagers to heed the advise of the LGUs to leave their properties if their lives are threatened as nothing could be more important than their safety.
“Naiintindihan natin yung mga magsasaka na nagpapabalik-balik dun sa lugar na malapit sa bulkan. Siempre kailangan nilang ituloy ang kabuhayan nila at pangalagaan kung ano man yung nai-pundar na nila roon. Pero walang buhay ng isang magsasaka ang katumbas ng kanyang pananim.”
The Philippines is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the group of countries around the Pacific Ocean frequented by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and where 75% of the world’s active volcanoes are found.
“Alam naman nating maraming sakuna o natural calamities sa bansa natin. Kung meron lang sana tayong mas maayos na crop protection at insurance e mababawasan ang pangangamba ng ating mga magsasaka.”
In a meeting with farmers led by Mayor Jimmy Fragata of Juban, Pangilinan listened to the farmers concerns. Despite the initial assessment of damage at only P8 million barely three weeks into Bulusan’s recent activity, Mayor Fragata fears the continuing ashfall and lahar flows can further extend the damage.
For his part, Pangilinan expressed his support for the call of the provincial government to provide a permanent relocation site for affected villages, similar to the Gawad Kalinga villages. He also allocated part of his PDAF to the provincial government for immediate relief, but left it to the provincial government to decide when is the best time to release the bulk of it.
“Mother nature is just doing its role. It is true we cannot control it. But we can provide measures to ensure that there is minimal damage to our food supply and lessening the impact on our farmers’ livelihood. It is entirely unacceptable that our farmers are reduced to being scavengers whenever hit by a calamity. They have been toiling for decades to provide us food. Whenever they are affected, the whole country is affected. We can put a stop to this pathetic cycle. Here at Mount Bulusan and its surrounding affected areas, we can learn valuable lessons. Now more than ever, we should all start working together. The national and local government must enjoin communities to participate in formulating solutions to lessen the impact of natural disasters to our food supply,” Pangilinan said.